Thursday, August 17, 2006

Read on, I want your input!

It's about time I post something. First, I want to thank so many of you for your prayers, kind words and sympathy. We are doing a lot better. I still can't bring myself to throw away my positive pregnancy test and every now and then I find myself sobbing, espcecially at night, lying in bed,when I used to think a lot about what it was going to be like with two babies and I would come up with all sorts of fun scenarios. It was especially encouraging to hear from other women who have miscarried. It actually helped me to know that so many have gone through this and go on to have large families. Not to say, it isn't painful, though. I appreciate you all, and feel I have made new friends through this blog. I feel like my last post was my most personal. I guess my relationship with this blog is growing. Like with any relationship it takes time to build trust and I have to come to trust my friends here. I hope to be more open and honest and not just blog about the sugary happy stuff. Because, Lord knows, there's more to my life than that.
I've really had a hard time coming up with something to blog about. Then last night I was doing the dishes thinking about better ways I can help Johnny when we are in church. In the Orthodox Church the babies and children stay for the Liturgy. In our church the older children go to Sunday School after communion. Our church is very tolerating of the babies and we have quite a few of them now. Johnny is the oldest of the baby bunch and the first to be walking. I feel like all eyes are on me when he cries because he wants to run around or starts babbling and talking really loud. Anyways, as I was thinking about all this, I realized what better place to bring this up than my blog. I would LOVE to know what ways you take care of your children while in Liturgy. What boundaries you set, do you let them bring books, toys..? Do you let them walk around? What has worked and what hasn't?? I just think we can learn so much from other moms. Even if we don't take the advice it gives us ideas to ponder and sometimes I just need a different angle on things.
Okay, now I need to post a picture of my son, because, although, I feel this blog has evolved into something else, originally it was set up for his grandparents and a few other admirers. Like I said, he is walking all over the place these days and such a silly kid. He absolutely loves to be read to and when we aren't reading to him he sits at his bookshelf and flips through all the books. Animals are also a favorite. He makes the sound for elephants, fish, dogs, cats, cows, rhinos ( we guessed on that one) and ducks. He loves water, and whether it be a in the tub or the pool he calls it "baf" (bath) I met up with my sister and her family at the beach recently and Johnny had so much fun in the "baf". So, here he is at the beach with his cousin and looking cool in his hat, right before he took it off.


k-mo said...

Johnny is awesome.

Elizabeth said...

I am happy to report that I don't deal with problems of keeping kids quiet in church anymore, now that Hibi is 12 and sings in the choir, and Zac is 9 and serves as an altar boy! But I do remember those days. May I ask, which parish do you attend? We became Orthodox while in the San Diego area. The first church we attended was the OCA parish in Poway (why can't I remember the name?) and ended up being chrismated at St. George (went through some major changes, but now is up and running again, from what I understand?) and then moved on to St. Gregory of Nyssa. All of these were pretty child-friendly parishes. But I was upset when someone complained to the priest about me breastfeeding in church. He asked me to go to the back while nursing. I argued with him, but did what he asked and just sat back there and cried. Someone came and closed the door to the little room I was in and then I couldn't even hear what was going on! I was so upset. My priest came to me after and told me to go ahead and nurse. I felt that while nursing was really the only time I could devote most of my attention to the service. BTW, this complaint came when Hibi was 8 months old, just after she started pulling the blanket off while nursing and I gave up on it because I could nurse more discretely without it than have her yank it off and expose me to the whole church! (Side note: I know there are lots of La Leche League leaders at the Poway church.)

Anyway. We brought toys (quiet ones!), books, snacks. I know of one church in San Diego where the priest won't allow snacks, or even bottles in church, for little if you're there, I suppose you'll have to deal with that. Any diversionary tactic you can walking the baby around and looking at the icons, talking about what's in them, pointing out the censer, etc. really helps. Oh, and it really helps to sit up front, so the child can see what's going on. Keep a running commentary, if necessary, about what's going on. Not only keeps him occupied, but also teaches him about his faith.

One thing I learned with Hibi. There are those who would like your child to be perfectly quiet in church. Perhaps you have a child who is capable of that. But since you posed the question, I would guess not! Mine were not. I found that there was an invisible line in her behavior in church. If I tried to push too far, and went over the line, she'd go the opposite way and start making all kinds of racket. I could only expect so much of her before she would rebel. Try to figure out where that line is with Johnny and don't cross it!

I guess moderation is really the key--I don't like it when parents feel they have to take their baby out when they're just making little baby happy noises, but I also don't like it when parents let their babies scream and don't take them out.

I hope some of this helps! Just remember--he won't always be challenging in church! Or at least, not in the same way. ;-)

annie said...

Kevin..Thanks. We miss you guys, let's get together. yeah, yeah, yeah.

Elizabeth..Sounds like the church you attended in Poway was St. John of Damascus. That is our church and we just love it there. We do have a La Leche League leader and we have a handful of nursing mothers. No complaints that I know of.
I will have to try sitting up front. I've thought about doing that, but I feel like I will be even more of a distraction if I need to leave. However, Johnny loves our priest and is pretty interested everytime Father Al is in view. We'll give it a go.

Arielle said...

Hi Annie! Wandered over here from Sara's blog.

I am not a parent, but I have several young "godsisters" that I often help with in church, and my church is chock full of young children, so I can tell you what I see work/not work. But of course, maybe what works for them and what works for you and your son will be different.

I have one godsister (daughter of good friends) whose parents decided early on to enforce a particular behavior in church, and for her it has worked well. No toys or books, and she stands or sits at their feet and pays attention, even as a toddler. They'll pick her up and hold her sometimes, but not every time she whines to be. At one point, she figured out that she could manipulate her parents to take her out of the service by "fake crying." The priest said it was fine to just ignore it and keep her in there so she learned that it wouldn't work (if she was truly upset, they would take her out for a bit). She's two and a half, and now she's really good at just sitting or standing quietly and sometimes pointing stuff out to her parents. The only thing she has in church are two little laminated icon cards that she kisses repeatedly :)

BUT, this is a relatively quiet little girl, and the other children I know, especially the rowdy, active little boys, are simply not capable of that. Some parents have made little books of color-copied icons that their kids can flip through or books that describe the liturgy in photographs so they know what's happening, others bring books. I know one little girl who has FIVE godparents, and she wanders about the service visiting all of them. Her parents used to work very hard to keep her standing with them, and then their priest said it was fine to let her walk around, since "it's her church,too." Sometimes with active kids, there's nothing to do but walk around and look at icons, candles, etc. The little girl I have with me most will only tolerate being held (if not held, she crawls at lightning speed straight toward the altar - which I think is cute because it reminds me of the Theotokos running into the altar as a child, but we can't exactly let Anna do that :)) if I whisper at her "what is Fr. doing? What color is he wearing? Where is there a candle?" etc.

I am not a fan of having toys in church, although it works for some families. But I've never seen a case where having toys didn't mean kids whispering at each other, sometimes fighting over them, making unnescessary noise and they didn't seem to be involved in the service at all. The kids at the church I went to last Sunday were trying to get the toys from each other, dropping them on the wood floor, and pretty much being as distracting as possible. If it were my kids, I wouldn't want to start that as a habit, and just make a "no toy" rule from the beginning. Depending on the kid, though, I might allow blankies, maybe a stuffed animal if they were attached to one, or a book or two. I know enough kids that manage to get through the service with no objects to distract them that I know it's at least possible.

As an aside, I thought it was the coolest thing ever when I saw one of the most conservative women I know standing in a very crowded church, with a head covering on, with clergy around her, breastfeeding her son. No blanket to cover her up or anything. Just having his head there and a loose shirt was more than discreet enough. No one batted an eye. I wish all church were like that.

sara said...

i'm glad you're doing well :)

whew, that breastfeeding thing was pretty cool...sometimes i do feel weird doing it in church but since we sit in the back no one really notices.

it has been interesting to see how other people do things. it seems that the biggest thing i've learned is that every kid is different, and every parish is different.

we have tons of babies and sprouting toddlers at our parish and we are all trying to figure this out. i will try to do this without sounding too whiny because there are some things about this situation that i find frustrating at our church.

basil is one of those spunky boys arielle was talking about until recenly, one of us was basically out in the narthex with him. he had trouble controlling his volume and wanted to run around and play with his friends/visit people/explore. this is kind of a no no at our church, seeing as we have chairs and definite "boundaries" uncommon to many other churches i've visited. and all of the families with kids sit in back making it a big distraction for the little ones. We held him, whispered things about the service to him, walked him around in our arms to see icons, candles, etc. this worked nicely, there were no toys or bokks at that point.

Recently we decided that he is capable of more self control and ought to learn to stay in the service. He chooses three or four books to bring in which he doesn't always use but are good to have on hand. he can stand near us, sit at our feet or on the chairs, or go see something as long as he asks us to go with him. i usually let him lay on the chairs or the floor during services other than divine liturgy (just sort of my own thing). if he does something really loud or cries, or is naughty somehow we take him out and talk/sit with him on a bench in the narthex until he's ready to go back in. this has helped him to understand that we're there to pray and then play after the service.

some days are better than other and some phases have been easier. honestly, some days i've felt like it was a waste of gas to go to church. usually i try to remember that just being there and helping him learn and trying to learn myself is a blessing and salvific.

I think it's good to be open to suggestions from others and not to beat yourself up about it not going perfectly, and to remember that children will be children.

there have been lots of times when i've felt so embarrassed or had my feeling hurt by comments people have made or looks, etc. i think this is all part of learning humility and to forgive and love our brethren. there's my two bits.

What has worked for you? What are you doing?

Such cute photos by the way...Johnny needs a saxaphone to go with that hat!

Elizabeth said...

Yeah, St. John of Damascus. I knew it was St. John but I couldn't remember the rest for some reason!

Actually, the first time I nursed Hibi in church was there. We'd gone to St. George for her churching, but I was so nervous about nursing in public that I brought a bottle of expressed milk (good thing I got over that, because I never got the hang of expressing). But then we went to St. John's on the Wednesday after that and I *forgot the bottle.* I went out in the narthex to nurse, with blanket, and since we were still new at it, she latched on in the wrong place and got no milk, and I ended up with a very sore breast! But the LLL leader (I can't remember her name!) came back and told me that a bunch of women there nurse in church and I should lose the blanket, too. I wasn't ready for all that, but I do appreciate her coming over and telling me that, because I remembered it later.

annie said...

Thanks for the ideas and experiences you shared. And hi, Arielle, nice of you to stop in. : )
Well, it was encouraging to hear that other moms have struggled with this issue. Honestly, I feel even more blessed with my church because I never have the added stress of unapproving looks or comments, it is enough just chasing and entertaining the child. I agree that it really depends on the indivisual kid, what works with some just wont with others. Johnny needs a time to get down and walk around. I feel like, at the age of one, it is unfair for me to just expect him to be okay sitting or held for almost two hours. We have been bringing books and his sippy cup with water. What his godmother suggested was not to wait until he is being noisy and disruptive to take him out into the narthex, but choose a time during the liturgy when it would not be too distracting to walk him out there and let him get walk around a bit. We tried sitting up front at Vespers last Saturday, it went okay, but I am more comfortable a little further back, we do sit/stand on the aisle, though,so he has a good view of the priest and deacon when they come out.
I am sorry it has been hard for you, Sara. It seems like people who have adult children forget what it was like when they were babies. Have some sympathy, people! :)

Aaron said...

"It seems like people who have adult children forget what it was like when they were babies. Have some sympathy, people!"

Annie, most of the people haven't forgotten, they are protestant converts who have never had their children in church to begin with. So their children went to either the nursery, sunday school, or children's church.

Sara's right, this is a salvific struggle for all of us. Seraphim Rose says it quite well, "We are told by the Holy Fathers that we are supposed to see in everything something for our salvation. If you can do this, you can be saved."

Lord help us.

RainaRo said...

That is the cutest picture of him in the hat! If children are expected to stay in the service, then don't worry about it! That's just how kids are. I would bring quiet toys or he might be ready for crayons. If he is really noisy, stay in the back. He will be more of a distraction to others in the front.
I can't believe that people are giving "looks" or making comments (reading other people's comments) if babies are supposed to be in there. Sounds like there needs to be a nursery of some kind for the older babies or a "cry room" there at your church.

annie said...

Hi Aaron,
I was not taking into account that your church is made up mostly of converts. I just wonder what people who are bothered by the children feel the alternative is. They NEED to be there, it is important for them to be there, as you said.
Raina, I think most people are very understanding, it is just the ones who are not that we remember the most. Evan and I laugh, because Johnny receives only smiles and pats on the head as he walks around and babbles to people. It only encourages him!

Anonymous said...

We went with snacks (quiet, not crunchy ones), like raisins. etc. Special snacks we saved for only church helped keep ours busy.

We also did books. A hard baby like Bible is nice. Small toys that don't make noise are good too.

Looks like you've already gotten good advice. I would definitely do what's best for Johnny, rather than what's best for others--but it sounds like you are already doing that by not expecting him to sit the whole time.

My mother's only regrets with us was that sometimes she'd do what's best for others instead of her children (to appease people). And I've done that too, but I always regret it. So, go with your gut! Momma knows best. No one knows your child like you!